As the clock expired in the 2019 Maryland public school 2A State Championship, Hereford High School girl’s lacrosse — a squad Libby May and Isabella Peterson led together for the past four years — ended its season with a one-goal defeat.
Four years later May and Peterson are set to share the field in the postseason again. But this time, they’ll be opponents when Maryland women’s lacrosse travels to Harrisonburg Sunday to play James Madison and battle for a spot in the NCAA Quarterfinals.
Peterson said in previous meetings she and May share a quick glance before the game, but after that, it’s strictly business.
The two All-American attackers are the top scorers for their respective teams. May has tallied 60 goals for the Terps and Peterson, who was named one of five finalists for the Tewaaraton award, has 82 for the Dukes.
“We both played in two state championships together, we played basketball together, soccer together,” May said. “We were really close all four years so it’d be really cool to represent Hereford and get back on the field with Isabella one way or another.”
Maryland is a lacrosse hotbed, making it common for high school teammates to share the field in college. Five high schools in the state boast multiple players on the Terps roster.
But Peterson and her younger sister Jordan, who also plays for James Madison, are the only Hereford alum that May has played with or against in college. She did play alongside her older sister Catie in College Park, but the elder May went to McDonogh — a national private school lacrosse powerhouse that three current Terps attended.
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May called her alma mater a “lesser-known public school.” When she and Peterson first got there, few expected them to grow into an electric tandem.
“I wouldn’t say we noticed them right away,” former Hereford coach Anne Ensor said. “Libby looked like she was about 60 pounds soaking wet. And we thought, ‘well, we don’t know if she’ll be big enough to handle varsity.’ And Isabella was definitely sizable but hadn’t really grown into her size yet.”
But their skill was evident. The staff quickly realized they had something special on their hands.
“Before tryouts were over, we were like, ‘Oh my gosh, how did we miss them on day one?’” Ensor said.
Hereford played 7-on-7 during tryouts — a drill where May shined. She cut over the middle of the field, catching a pass up high before dropping her stick and ripping a shot into the upper corner, Ensor recalled.
“[The coaches] just looked at each other like ‘Oh, that’s how it’s gonna be,’” she said.
And that’s how it was. Not much has changed since.
“Libby is such an amazing cutter … if you turn your head for one second, she’s gone,” Peterson said. “I think something she does so well at Maryland is her catching and finishing on the inside. You cannot leave her open in the middle because they will find her and she will put the ball in the back of the net.”
Peterson has made a more-than-solid career by putting the ball in the back of the net, too, with 214 career goals to her name.
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The Tewaaraton finalist also has 234 career draw controls and 50 assists. She’s provided a lot for James Madison and is sure to post a challenge for the Terps on Sunday.
“I don’t think it matters however much you want to talk about her, she’s going to score,” Maryland coach Cathy Reese said ahead of Maryland’s 8-7 loss to James Madison on March 1. “She’s been a fun player to watch and a hell of a hard player to defend.”
Two star players can often struggle to co-exist. But that wasn’t the case for May and Peterson. They worked well at the draw circle — where the 6-foot Peterson would either flip the ball up to herself or push it out for the speedy May to snag. On offense, May frequently found a dodging Peterson with slick feeds.
Their partnership extended off the field, with the more mellow Peterson often calming down the excitable May.
Since separating, the once-dynamic duo that used to play soccer, basketball and lacrosse together year-round have combined to notch 379 goals in college. Both now lead their teams headed into a postseason meeting.
They owe part of that success to the growth they fueled in each other for years before.
“She taught me different things to add to my toolbox as a lacrosse player. So I learned some dodging skills from her, some cutting skills as well. We helped each other in that aspect, learning each other’s games,” May said. “I’m excited to get back out on the field with Isabella.”